Medical & Pain Problems


Yoga Research with Medical Conditions


Research looking at the effects of various yoga practices have been conducted in the last 10+ years.

Below is a sample of some of the research that has been done on a variety of medical and psychological issues.  This page is updated as new research becomes available.

A Study of the Impact of Yoga Âsana on Perceived Stress, Heart Rate, and Breathing Rate.

Amy Wheeler, PhD, and Linda Wilkin, PhD. INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF YOGA THERAPY – No. 17 (2007)

In this study, 79 stessed-out college students at USC participated in a study looking at Yoga’s effect on stress, heart rate, and breathing rate. Yoga âsana was associated with positive pre- to post-class changes on perceived stress, heart rate, and breathing rate. Participants’ pre-class perceived stress and breathing rate decreased during the ten-week period.

Effect of Therapeutic Yoga on Balance and the Ability to Transfer from the Floor in an Older Adult Population

Nancy Glenmore Tatum, MS, E-RYT 5001, Charles Christopher Igel, MS2, Rodney C. Bradley, MS, PT, RYT1
1 Glenmore Yoga and Wellness Center, Richmond, VA; 2 University of Virginia.

The purpose of this study was to determine if a therapeutic Yoga program could improve the ability of older adults to transfer from the floor. The study also examined how balance, quadriceps strength, and ankle flexibility influence transfer ability in aolder adults Fifty older adults, age range 58 to 83 years, most of whom were new to Yoga. A total of 45 participants completed the program. completed 13-week therapeutic Hatha Yoga program specifically tailored to older adults and designed to strengthen the quadriceps, increase ankle flexibility and balance, and improve the ability to transfer to and from the floor. Participants attended one 90-minute Yoga class per week and were asked to complete a 30-minute guided home practice, using a video, five days per week.
 Improvement was noted across all measures. These improvements were reflected by participants’ own perception of their transfer ability and general level of fitness.

Gentle Hatha Yoga and Reduction of Fibromyalgia- Related Symptoms: A Preliminary Report.


This study examined whether gentle Hatha yoga reduced fibromyalgia-related symptoms for a convenience sample of 10 participants ranging in age from 39 to 64 years who received yoga instruction 2 times per week for 8 weeks. Respondents completed the Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire 1 time per week and provided weekly journal reports regarding their health status. Pre- and post-intervention manual tender point evaluations were also conducted. Findings provide evidence of association between par-ticipating in gentle Hatha yoga classes and reduced fibromyalgia-related symptoms.

Immediate Effect of Sukha Pranayama on Cardiovascular Variables in Patients of Hypertension.

Ananda Balayogi Bhavanani, MBBS, ADY, Zeena Sanjay, BNYS,
Madanmohan MD, MSc INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF YOGA THERAPY – No. 21 (2011) The Advanced Centre for Yoga Therapy, Education and Research, Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education & Research, Puducherry, India

Twenty-three hypertensive patients attending the Yoga OPD at JIPMER were recruited for the study and instructed to perform sukha pranayama for 5 minutes at the rate of 6 breaths/min. This pranayama involves conscious, slow and deep breathing with equal duration for inhalation and exhalation. Heart rate (HR) and BP were recorded before and immediately after the intervention. Results: Post-intervention statistical analysis revealed a significant (p < .05) reduction in HR and a highly significant (p < .001) reduction in systolic pressure, pulse pressure, mean arterial pressure, rate-pressure product, and double product with an insignificant fall in diastolic pressure. Discussion: It is concluded that sukha pranayama at the rate of 6 breaths/minute can reduce HR and BP in hypertensive patients within 5 minutes of practice. This may be due to a normalization of autonomic cardio- vascular rhythms as a result of increased vagal modulation and/or decreased sympathetic activity and improved baroreflex sensitivity. Further studies are required to understand possible mechanisms underlying this beneficial immediate effect and to determine how long such a beneficial effect persists.


Influence of Hatha Yoga on Physical Activity Constraints, Physical Fitness, and Body Image of Breast Cancer Survivors: A Pilot Study

Marieke Van Puymbroeck, PhD, CTRS,1 Arlene Schmid, PhD, OTR,1,2 Kimberly J. Shinew, PhD,3 Pei-Chun Hsieh, PhD, CTRS1. INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF YOGA THERAPY – No. 21 (2011) 1. Indiana University Bloomington, Bloomington, IN ; 2. Roude Findings indicated that quantitatively, yoga participants experienced reductions in physical ac- tivity constraints and improvements in lower- and upper-body strength and flexibility, while control participants experienced improvements in abdominal strength and lower-body strength. Qualitative findings support changes in body image, physical activity constraints, and physical fitness for the participants in the yoga group. In conclusion, Hatha yoga may reduce constraints to physical activity and improve fitness in breast cancer survivors. More research is needed to explore the relationship between Hatha yoga and improvements in body image.

Initial Evaluation of the LifeForce Yoga Program as a Therapeutic Intervention for Depression

Shannon M. Bennett, MA,1 Amy Weintraub, MFA, E-RYT,2 Sat Bir S. Khalsa, PhD3 1. University of California, Los Angeles, Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior 2. LifeForce Yoga Healing Institute
3. Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, MA INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF YOGA THERAPY – No. 18 (2008)

These results suggest that participation in a comprehensive Yoga program, designed specifically to address mood, can lead to decreased symptoms of depres- sion and associated physical or mood states. Psychological Well-Being, Health Behaviors, and

Weight Loss Among Participants in a Residential, Kripalu Yoga-Based Weight Loss Program.

Tosca D. Braun, BA,1 Crystal L. Park, PhD,2 Lisa Ann Conboy, MA, MS, ScD3. INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF YOGA THERAPY – No. 22 (2012) 1. Institute for Extraordinary Living at Kripalu Center 2. University of Connecticut
3. Osher Research Center at Harvard Medical School

 Objectives: The increasing prevalence of overweight and obesity in humans is a growing public health concern in the United States. Concomitants include poor health behaviors and reduced psychological well-being. Preliminary evidence suggests yoga and treatment paradigms incorporating mindfulness, self-compassion (SC), acceptance, nondieting, and intuitive eating may improve these ancillary correlates, which may promote long-term weight loss. Methods: We explored the impact of a 5-day residential weight loss program, which was multifaceted and based on Kripalu yoga, on health behaviors, weight loss, and psychological well-being in overweight/obese indi- viduals. Thirty-seven overweight/obese program participants (age 32–65, BMI>25) completed validated mind- fulness, SC, lifestyle behavior, and mood questionnaires at baseline, postprogram, and 3-month follow-up and reported their weight 1 year after program completion. Results: Significant improvements in nutrition behaviors, SC, mindfulness, stress management, and spiritual growth were observed immediately postprogram (n = 31, 84% retention), with medium to large effect sizes. At 3-month follow-up (n = 18, 49% retention), most changes per- sisted. Physical activity and mood disturbance had improved significantly postprogram but failed to reach signif- icance at 3-month follow-up. Self-report weight loss at 1 year (n = 19, 51% retention) was significant. Conclusion: These findings suggest a Kripalu yoga-based, residential weight loss program may foster psycholog- ical well-being, improved nutrition behaviors, and weight loss. Given the exploratory nature of this investigation, more rigorous work in this area is warranted.

Teaching Therapeutic Yoga to Medical Outpatients: Practice Descriptions, Process Reflections,
and Preliminary Outcomes

Kirsten T. Gabriel, MA,1 RYT, Katie M. Edwards,2 Seoka Salstrom, MS,1
Manjula Spears, RYT,3 and Richard A. Panico, MD3. INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF YOGA THERAPY – No. 16 (2006)
Mind-Body Institute, Athens Regional Medical Center and University of Georgia 2 Ohio University, 3 Mind-Body Institute, Athens Regional Medical Center

This article describes therapeutic Yoga practices designed for a medical population with mixed diagnoses and a wide range of health challenges. We present preliminary data from 54 adults who participated in Yoga classes at a community medical center serving seventeen counties in Northeast Georgia. Findings suggest that attending therapeutic group Yoga classes can improve health perceptions and mindfulness. These findings are discussed in terms of implications for clinical practice and future research. The Yoga practices are described in detail, for the benefit of teachers and researchers who wish to replicate the practices.

The Effects of Yoga versus Exercise on Stress, Anxiety, and Depression in Older Adults

Kimberlee Bethany Bonura, PhD, RYT1 & David Pargman, PhD2
1. Walden University, Minneapolis, MN 2. Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL
The present study investigates the effect of chair Yoga versus walking and chair aerobics on psychological health in older adult men and women. Participants (M age = 83; N = 42) were randomly assigned to one of four activity groups: chair Yoga, chair aerobics, walking, and social games (non-activity control group). Classes met for 30 minutes, 3 days per week, for 6 weeks. ANCOVAs revealed significant time by group interaction for stress frequency; the Yoga group showed the most stress reduction over time. Time by group interactions for the other variables (stress severity, depression, and anxiety) were nonsignificant, although Yoga participants experienced the most benefits over the course of the intervention. Replication with a larger sample size is warranted in order to better understand the impact of Yoga on psychological health in older adults.

Background: With the current challenge of rapidly aging populations, practices such as yoga may help older adults stay physically active, healthy, and fulfilled. Methods: The impact of an 8-week Iyengar yoga program on the holistic health and well-being of physically inactive people aged 55 years and over was assessed. Thirty-eight older adults (mean age 73.21 ± 8.38 years; 19 intervention, 19 control) engaged in either twice-weekly yoga classes or con- tinued their usual daily routines. Physical health measures were muscle strength, active range of motion, respiratory function (FEV1), resting blood pressure, and immune function (salivary IgA and lysozyme). Self-perceived general, physical, mental, spiritual, and social health and well-being were assessed with the Life’s Odyssey Questionnaire and the SF12v2TM Health Survey. Results: Muscle strength, active range of motion, physical well-being, and aspects of mental well-being (emotional well-being and self-care) improved significantly in the yoga group (p < .05). Median changes in most of these variables were also significantly different from those in the control group. Conclusions: Participation in Iyengar yoga programs by older people is beneficial for health and well-being, and greater availability of such programs could improve quality of life.

The Relationship Between Meditation Experience and Intrusive Thoughts


Meditation has long been suggested as a means for improving mental health. This study examines whether meditation may be helpful to persons with intrusive thoughts. Fifty-three meditators from five sites of meditation re- ported their experience with meditation (how long they had been meditating and how much meditation they were cur- rently doing per week), as well as their current experience of cognitive intrusions and related distress. Number of weeks experience with meditation was found to be negatively correlated with both severity of intrusive thoughts and negative evaluation of intrusive thoughts. Intensity of current meditation practice (minutes per week) was not found to be corre- lated with severity or evaluation of intrusive thoughts. It is concluded that experience with meditation provides psy- chological benefits consistent with the aims of both meditation traditions and many contemporary cognitive-behavioral therapy approaches. Meditation is theoretically and pragmatically compatible with contemporary cognitive-behavioral approaches and may be a useful supplement for treating clinical and nonclinical intrusive thoughts.

Yoga for Seniors with Arthritis: A Pilot Study

Elizabeth de G.R. Hansen, PhD. New York, NY
Abstract: To examine whether Yoga classes can relieve arthritis symptoms in older adults, Yoga classes were offered once a week for six weeks to 23 older adults (mean age 71; 19 of the 23 were diagnosed with arthritis) in four different senior institutions in East Harlem, New York. Most participants were of Puerto Rican or Spanish-speaking origins, and all had low incomes and little knowledge of or prior exposure to Yoga. Self-reported levels of pain, stiffness and sleeplessness were collected at the beginning and end of the six-week Yoga program. Statistical analyses revealed significant improvements in pain and stiffness, with large effect sizes. The classes had no significant effect on sleeplessness. Twenty-two of the 23 participants also reported home practice of breathing and poses. The results of this pilot study provide promising evidence that group Yoga classes can reduce pain and stiffness among seniors with arthritis. The study also demonstrates the feasibility of this type of intervention: a group format delivered to seniors where they already live or seek resources and that accommodates a diverse range of abilities and health conditions.